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News/Business. Chris Hansen, Hoda Kotb, Josh Mankiewicz. (2012) After being scared into silence, a woman finally reveals her husband's secret. (CC) (Stereo)

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Linda Gibson 15, Us 10, Kalamazoo 5, Bernadette Sugrim 5, Michigan 5, New York 4, Brian Sugrim 4, Lester Holt 3, Christopher 3, Sky 2, Bernadette 2, Dragon 1, Johns 1, Chris 1, Light Creamy Potato 1, Bern 1, Boxing 1, Bacon & Cheese Soup 1, Vitac 1, Errands 1,
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  NBC    Dateline NBC    News/Business. Chris Hansen, Hoda Kotb, Josh Mankiewicz.   
   (2012) After being scared into silence, a woman finally...  

    September 22, 2012
    10:00 - 11:00pm PDT  

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my gut was wrenching. >> what if you were married to a monster? >> you don't know that fear. nobody knows that fear unless you're living in it. >> held prisoner by a secret. >> you do not tell anybody. and if you ever do, i will kill you. >> your children in danger. >> my shirt was ripped. i was sweating like crazy. i couldn't breathe. i was afraid to look back. >> tonight -- a family faces something evil. >> i've done things that are bad. i have things to hide. >> have you ever killed anyone? >> yes. >> could you do what they did? >> this is the moment, this is the one time, the one chance you
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have to do something. >> this would be a day of reckoning. welcome to "dateline," everyone. i'm lester holt. imagine living in fear under your own roof. the woman at the center of tonight's story could be any wife and mom. she was in danger. telling the truth could set her free, but it could also cost her her life. an impossible choice until she saw the surprising bravery of her young daughter. here's amy robach. >> bernadette is a pretty woman with some very ugly secrets. >> he made it perfectly clear if i ever said anything, he would kill me. >> but if she kept quiet, she would live in fear forever. >> i question myself now that i look back, like, why couldn't you have done something? >> the secret she says helped
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bind her to a killer. it would take strength and courage to break free, but could she do it? >> i was afraid not only for my life, for my children's, and i was afraid for my entire family wi . >> the whole remarkable story, with all its twists and turns, begins here among the hills and dairy farms in new york state where bernadette grew up. it was 1995. she was 17. what were your hopes and your dreams ba s back then? >> my real dream was just to get married and be a good wife and have kids. >> and her dream was about to come will true. >> it was during the summer, and brian just walked out of the woods with a backpack on his shoulder. >> his name was brian subrum. he was 19, just out of the army. >> i was infatuated. >> head over heels?
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>> head over heels, yeah. i had this handsome guy who's smart, tell gentle, really likes me, thinks i'm beautiful. i had never gotten that kind of attention before. >> they dated for nearly a year, lovers and confidants until one day brian shared a disturbing secret. >> he came to me one day and said, i did something really bad. such a terrible person. can you ever love me? can you ever forgive me? i killed somebody. >> she says brian told her he had killed a man in the basement of his parents' house. >> did you ever ask him why he killed this man or any of the circumstances surrounding it so you could understand it? >> not at that moment. i knew he had said he did something, and it didn't really register in my head. i made it so it just didn't exist. i wanted the happily ever after.
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i wanted to love somebody, and i wanted to be loved. and that's what he gave me. >> the next year brian gave her a ring. they married and began a family. daughter scott came along first. >> he was very affectionate, lots of loving, always made her feel good, daddy's little girl. they'd have their own little communication, i'm the big dragon, you're the baby dragon. >> then in 2000, the trio packed up and moved to kalamazoo, michigan, where bernadette began work as a bank teller. brian taught martial arts and boxing to local kids. >> he was this very capable, intelligent person who was my husband. i'm very proud of this. he's helping people. he gave them confidence. >> everything seemed to be going well, as they prepared for a second child. >> that was a happy time for us. >> but things changed when brian learned his brother christopher had been killed in a motorcycle
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accident back in new york. >> how did brian react to his brother's death? >> brian was devastated. >> did he ever talk to you about how he was feeling? >> i think he felt guilty. >> the couple later named their son chris after him. still, brian struggled with his grief over his brother. >> he actually said it a couple of times, you know, why did he have to die? he was the good one. i'm the evil one. >> he said that. >> yeah. i think he felt a lot of guilt over, you know, his brother dying so young and him being such a good person and him struggling with this evil, this bad side of him. >> is that really when things took a turn for the worst? >> absolutely. he started staying out all hours of the night. he started drinking very heavily at that point. >> she says he had begun using drugs, cocaine and
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methamphetamine. his behavior turned more and more violent toward her and the children. >> what would happen? >> he would blow up. he would pick something up and throw it across the room and make sure it missed us by, like, that much. >> then she says his threats became truly frightening. >> i remember waking up in the middle of the night with a rifle pointed to my head saying, wake up, wake up, you [ bleep ] bitch. get out of bed right now. i was terrified. i thought he was going to kill me. >> it all made her think about that secret brian had told her years before and what it meant. is it surreal now looking back and thinking, how is that not a massive warning sign? talk about a red flag. >> i look back now, and i'm just, like, why didn't you just walk away then? >> but she didn't. and she had no idea of the terror her husband had in store for her next.
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>> when we come back, bernadette's husband has another secret, and this one is just as deadly. >> this stays between us. you do not tell anybody. and if you ever do, i will kill you. >> when "day of
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by the fall of 2003, bernadette was living in fear of her husband brian who had become more and more abusive with every day. how would you describe the power that brian had over you? >> he was in complete control.
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i did not question him. i did not argue with him. >> he told her he'd killed someone in the past, and she worried she could be his next victim. >> because i had seen a dark side of him and i knew what he was capable of. >> they'd lived together for six years, now with two young children. then something happened in an empty field just a few blocks from the subrum home. a body was found. >> she was stabbed in numerous places throughout her body. >> red courtus was a deputy for the kalamazoo police department. he reported to the scene. >> the scene was gruesome. >> very gruesome. very. >> she was naked. >> she was naked, yes. covered up with a lot of debris. >> and how quickly was her body found after she was put there? >> we think probably about four
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to five hours. >> police later identified her as linda gibson. she was 39. >> she was a gal that lived in kalamazoo. we had dealings with her in the police department. >> she was tiny. she couldn't have done nothing to anybody. >> donna allsop is linda's sister. she said linda led a difficult life, resorting to prostitution to feed a drug addiction. donna always feared for linda's safety but wasn't prepared for this. >> it was senseless. to me, what i seen is not ever going to go out of my mind. never. >> her throat had been cut. >> yet there wasn't much blood. >> there was hardly any blood, yeah, which led us to believe she wasn't killed there. >> there was a surveillance camera in the area. did it pick up anything? >> yes. there was a business located as a dead end of the street. and it picked up a vehicle that appeared to be a brown van. >> but no license plate or
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driver was visible. with little to go on, cordus hit the street looking for leads. where did you look first? >> we started looking at what we call johns, people that were using the prostitutes at the time, people on the street that knew her, friends. >> the detective had no idea who linda gibson's killer might be, but bernadette was about to find out. >> brian woke me up, and he told me, i need to talk to you, it's very important. we really need to talk. >> what did he tell you? >> he said, i did something really, really bad. i knew before -- you know, as he was even saying those words, i knew what he was going to say. i could see it in his eyes, and he told me, i killed someone. i killed a woman. >> did he tell you how he killed her? >> yes. he told me he stabbed her to death. >> brian told bernadette he had killed her in their family van,
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the very one bernadette usually drove herself, a soccer mom's van had become a crime scene. >> he told me he took care of that. he bleached the van and he was going to get rid of it, and he needed to start thinking of what to do to be safe, so they wouldn't find him. inside i'm terrified, but i can't show that. all i could think was, you know, turn everything off, don't have any feelings about this, just do what you need to do to survive. >> she felt scared of him before, but this was a whole new level of terror, especially given what he said next. >> this stays between us. you do not tell anybody. and, if you ever do, i will kill you. >> so bern adeadette ford follo his orders and took him to the
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bus station where he could leave town. then he said more. >> he told me to keep an eye out on the newspapers and tv for a woman by the name of linda gibson and let him know if they have any leads as to who did it and let him know. >> why didn't you go to police? >> i was afraid. i was terrified. i'm the only one he told. and he made it perfectly clear, if i ever said anything, he would kill me. >> brian headed to new york to stay with bernadette's cousin, saying they were on a trial separation. now she feared for their lives, too. >> did you ever think about taking the kids, just running away? >> sure, i thought about it, but i knew he was with my family, and i knew he wouldn't hesitate to hurt any of them. >> because you knew, more than anyone, what he was capable of. >> absolutely. >> six weeks went by, and updates on the case stopped appearing in the newspaper.
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bernadette says brian felt like the coast was clear and returned home. that's when he said the words that chill her to this day. >> he told me the reason why he killed that woman is because she reminded him of me. coming up -- >> we were sleeping with a loaded gun under your pillow. >> it was not only loaded, it was loaded and cocked. >> bernadette prepares to fight back for herself and her daughter. >> he was going to kill me. >> when "dateline" conti
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it was now may 2011, eight years had gone by since brian sugrim told his wife, bernadette, that he had killed a woman near their house in kalamazoo, michigan. bernadette said even their children, sky and chris, felt frightened to be around their own father. >> sky pulled me aside, and she would say to me, mommy, can we leave him? can't we just go? i'd have to look at her and say, i'm scared. i don't know what to do. >> she did do one thing, though. she bought a gun. you were sleeping with a loaded gun under your pillow. >> it was not only loaded, it
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was loaded and cocked. >> were you prepared to kill him, if you had to? >> i thought about it many times. i played in my head, you know, he's taking a shower, just go shoot him and it will be all over with. but i couldn't. i knew that if i shot him my kids would be without a mother and a father, and i'd have to live with that for the rest of my life, and i don't think i could carry that. >> bernadette says the fear built up so much that her body rebelled. she had a heart attack. >> you were 30 years old and you had a heart attack. >> i went to the airport and just collapsed on the escalator. my heart just stopped. and thank god there was a police officer there. he kept my heart pumping while they brought a defibrillator to restart it. but i was dead for seven minutes. >> what do you think caused the heart attack?
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>> i think it was stress. in fact, i know it was stress that caused the heart attack. >> meanwhile, she says, brian was up to something. he'd created a fake identity and made a new passport for himself, using his deceased brother's social security number. what was he planning? >> he needed to have the security of having an alternate identity in case he needed to run from his past. and he outright told me that many times. but he bragged along the way of making all these things, like, look what i did, and i'm getting away with it. >> learning all of this, bernadette prepared for the worst. she recorded her fears in a letter and passed it to a friend. >> i put it in a sealed envelope and said, don't open this. i said, if something should happen to me, i want you to bring it to the police. >> and you remember how desperate you felt when you wrote that letter. >> absolutely. it was getting to that point where he was going to kill me.
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he was eventually going to kill me. >> it wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of -- >> when. he was preparing to kill me and take the kids and start a new life. i think that he had reached that point where he didn't feel he needed me anymore and i was too much baggage and he could do a better job with the kids. i know for sure sky wouldn't have survived that. he'd have ended up killing her, too. >> but a day of reckoning was coming. it started during a weekly routine brian had created and she dreaded. he would give the family boxing lessons. over the years, bernadette had taken photos of them. on this day, she arrived home from work late.
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>> i got out of the car, and him and chris were just boxing normally in the driveway, like they always do. you know, he's barking at chris, do it right, you know? i saw sky sitting in the garage. >> sky was sitting with their dog, and something was very wrong. >> she had that wide-eyed fear, terror in her eyes that i'd seen many times before. and immediately my gut just sank. >> bernadette couldn't believe what she saw. enraged that sky couldn't get their german shepherd to behave, brian actually tied her to the dog. >> she had a belt around the dog and then around her. he proceeded to tell me not to get in the middle of it, and he picked up the karate baton stick he was using and he hit her
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across the back several times. >> what did she do? >> she yelped. a scream without screaming, without crying, because she knew if she did he would hit her worse. and then he told me, go inside and get suited up, get ready for boxing. and so i did. >> but now she had a plan. you knew where the guns were? >> oh, i got my gun. >> you got your gun? >> uh-huh. i went in and i changed and i took my gun out and put it in the back of my sweatpants, and i walked back into the garage and i tried to talk to her again. he told me, go up and get rid of the gun. he knew i had the gun. he would actually laugh at me
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for it because he knew i wouldn't use it. >> you wanted to use it, though? >> i wanted to. >> still, she couldn't. brian untied sky but kept beating her. bernadette felt powerless. >> every time he went in and he hit her, i would go in and try to step in between. but he would just give me a look, and that was it. i knew he would hit her worse. >> how hard did he hit you? >> he hit me very hard, and it hurt. every time it felt even worse than it did before because the bruises were accumulating and the pain was getting worse just because i was being hit in the same spot over and over again. >> he was going to keep hitting you. >> he was going to kill me. >> then bernadette had an idea. she began sparring with brian to take his attention away from sky until -- >> then he looked up and he
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said, where's sky? >> suddenly, sky managed to do something her mother couldn't do. she escaped to a house next door where a neighbor called 911. >> when you were making that run to your neighbor's house, what were you thinking? >> i was just thinking, keep running, keep running, and i didn't look back. i was afraid to look back. my shirt was ripped. i was sweating like crazy. i couldn't breathe. and i just kept running. that was probably the fastest i've ever run. i didn't feel safe even when the police came. i was still terrified. because earlier that day, he said the neighbors were going to hear and then he would have to kill some police. that's what he said right out loud. >> and what were you thinking? >> honestly, i was just as scared during that moment because i knew -- the police had never been involved before, ever. my gut was wrenching. and i didn't know what to do. >> you were just so afraid of how mad he was going to be? >> exactly. and so i walked over to the end
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of the driveway with him, and i wasn't facing brian. he was behind me. i was facing the cops. so i told them, i said, if you don't take him with you, he's going to kill us all tonight. >> bernadette had arrived at the moment of truth, but could she tell the truth? and if she did, would it set her free or set the stage for something even worse? when we come back, will bernadette take that step, reveal that secret? and if so, will anyone believe her? >> were you skeptical? >> i was skeptical, yes. very skeptical. >> and later, hear from brian sugrim himself. >> have you ever killed anyone? >> yes. >> chilling words in a "dateline" exclusive when "day of reckoning" continues. [ fingers tapping ]
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bernadette sugrim had already endured her husband brian's reign of terror for half of her life. now the police were at their doorstep in michigan because her daughter, sky, had done something bernadette hadn't been able to do. she called for help after escaping her father's beating. >> the cops said to me how terrified your daughter is right now.
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they said, we can't do anything unless you press charges. and i looked at him, and it's like, in that moment, you know that this is the moment, this is the one time, the one chance you have to do something and say something. because, if you don't, that's it. it's just going to get worse from here. >> bernadette seized the moment. she agreed to press charges. and then they arrested your husband? >> they arrested him. >> brian didn't put up a fight. police charged him with assault. but that could only keep him behind bars for so long. and so, after all those years of silence, bernadette found her voice. >> there was a part of me that always knew that the secrets that i knew that i was holding were my only protection against him. that was all i had, all i could
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use, and so i held on to them. i knew that was the time i had to tell, that if i didn't tell it now, he would get out. >> police took bernadette and the children to the hospital, and sky received treatment for the severe bruises her father had inflicted. then bernadette finally spoke to a detective, greg cordes, who had been investigating the linda gibson murder all those years. >> we're just going to go back through the entire time line of everything, real specific dates and times and things. >> and he asked me, is there anything else you want to talk about? is there anything else you want to tell us about? and as soon as he let that question out, i said, yes, yes, there's a lot more i want to say. >> but would he believe her? were you afraid that maybe he wouldn't? >> yes, i was. he would walk out to the end of
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the driveway, look up and down the streets, making sure there was no cops coming. >> were you skeptical by what you had heard she was claiming? >> i was skeptical, very skeptical. i had dealt with the same thing many times over. but when she opened her mouth and started talking, things had changed a lot. >> he's planning on what he's going to do. >> she was absolutely exhausted, beat-down, and, clearly, it's like she had been living in a cave her whole life. she could never look anybody in the eye. she was staring at the floor. >> bernadette gathered her strength and told her storto police. >> he said he killed a woman. >> okay. >> he told me that he killed her in the van. >> police had never reported exactly how linda gibson had been killed, but bernadette knew. >> he stabbed her to death, and it was a prostitute. >> that's what we call pique information. that was something we didn't release out.
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i knew at that point she knew what she was talking about. >> and you took bernadette back to the crime scene. >> actually, she took me there. she took me right where linda gibson's body was found. the reason she knew that is brian took her, after he killed linda there, took her there and showed her the crime scene. >> she also told police about something else brian had shown her, on his own body. >> bernadette had told us when he came back that night and confided in her that he had killed this girl that there was a large scratch on his chest. >> he still has a scar. >> how obvious is it? >> it's -- when he takes his shirt off, you can't help but see it. >> really? >> it's obvious. >> what did you think as she was telling you this story? >> it was like she lived it yesterday. but i guesses when your husband confides he killed somebody, i guess you remember that stuff the rest of your life. >> what did that feel like, to finally tell someone what your husband had done? >> it was amazing. and at that point, i was still even terrified to put it into
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words, even though i knew i was doing it. i was still kind of like, am i really doing this? and what are going to be the consequences of doing this? >> bernadette knew she had taken a fateful step. she had revealed her husband's secret, but what would brian say? >> i need to talk to you about a little situation here. >> police questioned him for hours. he told them he never knew linda gibson and knew nothing about the murder. it was a denial he'd repeat 97 times in the course of the interview. >> i didn't kill anybody. i didn't kill anybody. i didn't kill anybody. >> i don't believe that. >> but then police asked him one more thing. >> so, during the interview, we had him open his shirt. >> can i see it? >> sure. >> and there it was, that scar, just as bernadette had described it. >> yeah, it was very clear. it was unbelievable.
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>> still police had no dna match to connect the scar back to linda gibson. in fact, they had nothing. no forensic evidence. no physical evidence to link brian to her killing. >> any dna? >> no dna. not even testable. >> prosecutors charged brian sugrim with murder, knowing they would need his wife to testify against him. but, before bernadette could do that, brian was about to reach from behind bars to try to stop her. coming up -- bernadette on the stand and the case on her shoulders. powerful moments in court. >> my husband has threatened my life. if he should succeed, he will make it look like an accident or suicide. i live in fear. he will find me and kill me as well as my entire family. >> when "dateline" continues.
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don't start by lifting 400 pounds, running a marathon your first day out or jumping on some crazy fad diet. start small, because small changes are easier to stick with than the big ones the more you know. bernadette sugrim had turned her husband, brian, in for murder. >> i didn't kill anybody. >> but now, to keep him behind bars, she had to testify against him in court. she felt her family's lives hung in the balance. >> there's no way he would get out and let us be. he would find us.
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>> and brian managed to find her even before trial, reaching out from behind prison walls in a series of letters. >> what was he saying in those letters? >> i love you. and i'll always love you. >> he was also trying to manipulate you into changing your testimony? >> absolutely. i didn't do this. you're sick. your heart attack caused brain damage. you're not thinking clearly. you're being manipulated by all these people involved. >> did it affect you? >> yeah. it bothered me that he could still say these things over and over and over again, and he still had that control. >> one of the defendant's favorite themes has to do with evil. >> when the trial began, prosecutor stuart fenton made it clear his case would hinge on bernadette. >> pay careful attention to bernadette sugrim, both her words and her demeanor. >> allegedly in 2003, brian confessed to his wife that he
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committed this crime. >> brian's defense team focused on bernadette, too, trying to poke holes in her story. >> all bernadette would have had to do is call the police, hey, he confessed to me. she didn't. >> defense attorney robert champion said bernadette had concocted the whole story to avoid a prosecution herself for not intervening that day when brian beat their daughter, sky. >> if what bernadette is saying is true, she had repeated opportunities to go to the police. she never did. not until she was facing a criminal investigation did she make up these false accusations. >> investigators have told "dateline" bernadette was never facing any criminal charges herself. >> mr. fenten, next witness. >> sky sugrim. >> to bolster bernadette's stories, prosecutors called her daughter, sky, to testify about
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the day she ran from her father. >> did your mom try to help you at all, if you remember? >> she was very scared. she even got out her gun. she hid it. >> you took the stand, and your dad was in that courtroom. what was that like? >> it was -- i'm going to use a quote from a book i read -- nervous making. but i felt empowered to know that i was doing this. and i looked at my dad a couple of times, and i did see him cry a little bit. but i knew they were fake tears, crocodile tears. he's just trying to get my attention and make me feel bad and i'm not going to do that. >> and you told the truth? >> yes. and it made me feel good to let people know what was happening and what was going on and just the kind of person that my dad was. >> finally, it was time for bernadette to take the stand. >> were you nervous? were you scared? >> i was. absolutely. i didn't want to look at him. i hated being in the same room as him. >> did you live with some deep,
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dark secrets of his for a long time? >> yes, i did. >> did he ever tell you where, physically, he actually killed linda gibson? >> he told me he stabbed her to death in the van and then he bleached the van out and her body and he dumped her body. >> on cross-examination, the defense tried to show bernadette had made up the whole story. >> so you did feel safe in your home. >> yes, i did. >> yet all these times you felt safe, you never disclosed these deep, dark secrets? >> no, i did not. >> but, in the end, the emotional high point of the trial came when bernadette testified about that letter revealing her years of fear. >> please read it as loudly and clearly as you can for the jury. >> "i'm writing this letter because i want everyone to know the truth in the event that something should happen to me. my husband, besham brian sugrim, has threatened my life.
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if he should succeed, he will make it look like an accident or suicide. i would never take my own life. he has killed in the past and admitted it to me, and i have no doubt he would do it again. please understand that i live in fear. if i leave, he will find me and kill me as well as my entire family. i have no choice but to stay and try to make the best of it. bernadette sugrim." >> now, as the case went to the jury, she worried whether jurors would believe her. and, if they didn't and brian went free, what would she and her children do? >> i was terrified of that. what if they let him off? coming up -- >> what is your verdict? >> the jury speaks and so, at last, does the accused. >> did you come here to get footage of the monster, or do you actually want to get the truth?
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bernadette sugrim was waiting to hear if a kalamazoo, michigan, jury would convict her husband, brian, of murder. if it did not, she feared her terror might never end. >> is he going to come after us? literally, i had thought about ways of where am i going to move to? because i was ready to change all of our identities if he should get out of jail. >> brian sugrim didn't testify
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at trial, but just before his sentencing in april, he did sit down with "dateline." >> did you come here to get footage of the monster, or did you actually want to get the truth? >> did you kill linda gibson? >> no. no, i did not. and i don't know why people want to believe so desperately that bernie was abused, that linda gibson was killed by me. i can't figure that out. what's the motivation? >> they would say it's because it's the truth. >> truth. you know, this prosecution, it was never about truth. >> he denies committing the two murders his wife says he had confessed to her. >> i've done things that are bad. >> but, in a sometimes rambling and contradictory interview, he says his marriage to bernadette wasn't abusive but magical. >> we had 16 years of what i thought was real magic. i love her. i care deeply for her still. she's honest. she's full of love.
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>> and he claims his two children have been brainwashed by the prosecution. >> what about their fear of you and their fear that you would get out? are you a bad person? should they fear you? >> no. no. i've never given them reason to. understand, there are people -- i don't have any enemies that are alive, okay? >> what does that mean? >> figure it out. my family, i've never abused them, and they don't have a reason to fear me. that's part of the lie. >> did bernadette lie on the stand? >> she doesn't know she's lying. that's the thing. she vibes innocent because she believes it. >> he claims that's because she suffers from brain damage caused by that heart attack she experienced years ago. bernadette said doctors fully examined her and found nothing wrong. >> they used a brain damaged girl who will say anything to make me look like a monster.
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>> she said that you told her you killed linda gibson because linda looked like bernadette. >> i heard that. actually, i heard that was printed in the paper, too. doesn't that sound a little crazy to you? that's brain damage. i tell you, it's not her fault. i don't need to destroy her to win this. i didn't kill linda gibson. >> have you ever killed anyone? >> yes. >> who have you killed? >> like i'm going to sit here and tell you that. >> so you are a murderer. >> no. i've been engaged in fair combat with an equal whose objective was to kill me, and i prevailed. there is a difference. there are some people who do need killing. >> so are you saying that the killing that happened happened in a time of war? >> let's not discuss that. there are no dead innocent
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people in my wake. there are no -- >> innocent by your standards, though. what does innocent mean? non-provoked? >> no. no. linda gibson, to me, was an innocent. she didn't deserve to die, and i didn't kill her. what more is there to say? >> but you do put a dot dot dot. >> sure. i guess i'm doing my own publicity, you know? >> back in court, bernadette would learn if she would ever have to face brian again as the verdict came. >> would the foreperson please rise. has the jury agreed upon a verdict? >> we have. >> what is your verdict? >> we, the jury, find the defendant guilty of first-degree premeditated murder. >> linda gibson's family now had justice. bernadette had her freedom.
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>> when you heard that verdict, what did you think? >> i felt like i could breathe. i didn't know whether to laugh or cry or scream or be happy. i just felt relieved. i know for sure he's never going to walk away, ever going to get out of jail again. >> there will never be a moment, as long as you breathe, as long as you think, that you would not pose a serious threat to public safety. >> in april, a michigan judge sentenced brian sugrim to life in prison with no possibility of parole. >> and your permanent incapacitation is the only legitimate method to protect society. >> bernadette has also told police about that other killing she says brian confessed to her back in new york. police questioned him as a suspect back in 1996 but never
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had enough evidence to press charges. they've reopened the case. now bernadette, sky, and chris are moving forward in their new life together. >> one of those jurors referred to you as a hero. how did that feel to you? >> it was strange, honestly. i just told my story. i told the truth of what happened. that doesn't make me a hero. if anybody is a hero in this story, it's my daughter. she's the real hero. >> she says sky saved all their lives that day by running from brian and calling police. >> i'm so proud of her, but i still feel guilty, like it shouldn't have been her. it should have been me that ran for help. but i think that if it would have been me, they would have been hurt.
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>> sky believes her mom did everything she could, and she's just happy they are all safely away from her father. >> was it hard having learned all of that information about your dad and then seeing him in court? >> it wasn't at that moment. but every once in a while, i'll get this feeling, i lived with a murderer. my father is a murderer. and that's a hard thing to deal with. but my mom is here. and she's better than anything. >> her brother, christopher, agrees. >> christopher, how would you describe your mom now that your dad is not here? >> i'd have to say she's a lot stronger now, yes. she really is. she's the bomb. >> they're a family that can laugh again, free from that fear they endured for so long. and now bernadette hopes that by sharing her story she can help others.
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>> what do you say to those women who feel like you felt, that there was no way out? >> don't let the fear paralyze you as it did for me for so long. take the chance. just have enough faith that things can be different, that good is better than evil, that love is more powerful than hate. that's all for now. i'm lester holt. that's all for now. i'm lester holt. thanks for joining us. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com